Left mediotemporal structures mediate the retrieval of episodic autobiographical mental images

Simona Gardini, Cesare Cornoldi, Rossana De Beni, Annalena Venneri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The aim of this functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study was to investigate the neuroanatomical substrates associated with the process of mental generation of specific (i.e., exemplar) and episodic autobiographical (i.e., an image of a unique life episode connected with an object) images. The fMRI paradigm in this experiment included a non-image generation baseline and two activation conditions requiring the generation of either specific or episodic autobiographical images. Image generation times and brain activation were recorded. Behavioral results showed that generating specific mental images took significantly less than generating episodic autobiographical images. Individuals generated specific images that were well distinct from the episodic autobiographical ones, semantic in nature without an episodic reference. Episodic autobiographical images did not show a significant bias towards preferential retrieval from any particular life period but were retrieved from across the entire life span. Conjunction analysis of the fMRI data showed that the two image generation conditions significantly activated a common set of neural structures, including mediofrontal areas. This shared pattern of activation might be the result of an underlying similar format and characteristics (e.g., richness in details) between the two types of images and might reflect the involvement of similar cognitive processes. Distinct patterns of significant activation were also present. Activation in the right parietal regions, cuneus, precuneus and left temporal regions was associated solely with the generation of specific images. Regions more specifically devoted to episodic memory retrieval and imagery, such as the left parahippocampal gyrus and precuneus, and the posterior cingulate cortex bilaterally, were significantly activated exclusively by the generation of episodic autobiographical images.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)645-655
Number of pages11
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1 2006


  • Autobiographical image
  • Episodic
  • fMRI
  • Imagery
  • Mental image generation
  • Specific image

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Neurology


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